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Gift to Fund Autism Director Position


November 9, 2010

Averett University is pleased to announce it has received an anonymous gift from a member of the Board of Trustees of $35,000 per year for three years to fund a director of autism studies position at the University. This generous gift will help the University establish a Model Program in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Averett is taking up the challenge to match dollar for dollar this unprecedented gift.

For several years, the University has been working to reach educators in the area who deal with autism. In 2009, Averett was one of the first universities in Virginia to be accredited by the Virginia Autism Council to offer a certificate program in autism education.

As the number of children diagnosed with autism continues to increase, Averett recognizes the need for autism education. Averett University sees this as an opportunity to impact the lives of many families by educating and training students in such areas as teacher education, psychology, equestrian studies, art, music and physical education to work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The funding of a director position will allow Averett to expand its educational opportunities by providing a "learning laboratory" for students on the undergraduate and graduate levels, in education, psychology, and other fields, to better understand how to work with autistic children. The director will be a highly trained expert who will coordinate the work of teachers and university students. The University also aims to provide resources to support parents and caregivers of children with autism.

Over the next three to five years, the University seeks to provide a Model Program in Autism Spectrum Disorders serving young children. Such a plan would provide direct services to participants, training for Averett students (who would in turn benefit other Autism Spectrum Disorders children after graduation) and training for currently practicing teachers and the parent of a child with autism.

Virginia is tied for first in the nation in the number of autism cases per capita. The school systems in our region - Danville and Pittsylvania County - have seen a large increase in the number of children in their classes affected by autism, with 100 percent of the 314 teachers surveyed reporting an autistic child in their classroom during their teaching careers.

For more information about the Autism initiative at Averett University, contact Buddy Rawley, vice president for institutional advancement at 434-791-5654 or buddy.rawley@averett.edu.